Tobi Antigha was born in a log cabin, the son of poor Mississippi sharecroppers.
Not really. The speaker at Wednesday night’s Laurens County Touchdown Club Banquet did have an extraordinary story to tell, however.
How he made his way to the football team at Presbyterian College was newsworthy. How he made his way to the Canadian Football League was startling. How he went from being a star wide receiver for the Blue Hose to being a pass-rushing defensive end for the Saskatchewan Roughriders was jaw-dropping.
“I learned how to surround myself with people who could lead me in the right direction,” Antigha said.
This was not a young man prone to taking “no” for an answer. His goal was to lead the best football players in Laurens County in the right direction.
Twenty-five young men sat listening to Antigha’s hour-long address. Some have part of their high school careers remaining. What greater inspiration could there have been for Duane Martin of Laurens District High School, the Laurens County Player of the Year, who rushed for 973 yards and scored 16 touchdowns? What greater support could he have offered Chris Liner, Coach of the Year from LDHS, who alone in the county led his team into the playoffs?
Clinton Red Devils and Laurens Academy Crusaders were also in the audience, earnestly schooled in the relentless disregardance of all odds and probabilities from Antigha, who has thus far succeeded in defying them.
In high school, at George Steinbrenner High School in Tampa, Fla., Antigha said he didn’t want to be on a sorry team. Then he wanted to play college football at a high level. Then he wanted to play pro. Always, at every level, he burned with ambition and self-confidence.
“Had I remained so focused on myself,” Antigha said, “that wouldn’t have happened. Little things are what make you a great player.”
Big schools looked but didn’t offer. Antigha sent highlight tapes nationwide. A PC assistant visited. He found out the Blue Hose were Division I (FCS). He visited PC. A star was born.
After Antigha’s Presbyterian career was over, he tried out for NFL teams. They were like Florida Atlantic or Arkansas State, interested but unwilling to sign. He tried out for two CFL teams. At the Roughriders’ workout, the coaching staff had a difficult time working out offensive linemen because there weren’t enough pass rushers present.
Asked to rush passers, Antigha didn’t do it halfway. As a senior at PC, he caught 53 passes and returned punts. For two seasons in Regina, Saskatchewan, he’s become a defensive jack of all trades. He dumped the Montreal Alouettes’ Johnny Manziel for his first 2018 sack. He intercepted two passes. The year before, he was the team’s rookie of the year.
“Don’t let your doubts dissuade you,” he said. “Lock out your distractions, one day at a time. You can’t worry about the future.”
What an inspiration he was for 25 young men named all-county.